At the height of summer, what could be a more exciting and fun way to celebrate your engagement than a cocktail party with a tropical-island theme? Set the casual and relaxed atmosphere of this event by selecting a sunny, outdoor venue. Decorate it in an eye-catching color palette of tropical greens, yellows, and oranges. Then set out a scrumptious yet light menu of appetizers and finger foods, together with an array of refreshing summer cocktails and scintillating music. And as the engagement party draws to a close, give guests a tropical-inspired memento with a reminder of the big day ahead!
Present a Scrumptious Appetizer Menu
Since this is a cocktail party, allow guests to move around and mingle by preparing a spread of appetizers that can be easily picked up with the fingers and balanced on a cocktail napkin. Perfect choices for this island theme would be light yet savory hors d’oeuvres infused with tropical or even Polynesian flavors. Some examples are sweet ham with melon, spicy shrimp kebabs served with a mango dip, coconut-crusted crab cakes, and vegetable spring rolls with papaya sauce. Then, serve fresh fruit chunks that are just the thing to bring in some cool sweetness. Present them in dessert goblets garnished with mini cocktail umbrellas for a pretty accent.
Make the Food Fun with Festive Decorations
How to create a party presentation? Try mini skewers. They’re great for easy, no-mess handling—plus they’re fun decorating tools. Just see how we’ve transformed a platter of appetizers into a tabletop tropical island, by adorning the toothpicks with colored beads and paper strips to mimic whimsical coconut trees! Then as a colorful centerpiece for the hors d’oeuvres, place a real or faux pineapple at the center of the serving tray. Hint: For a true show-stopper, try serving up these hors de oeuvres in pretty cocktail plates from Metrokane, which are special plates made to perfectly hold a wine glass. Click to see an example.
For more creative cocktail party ideas, check out these books:
- Cocktail Parties, Straight Up! Easy Hors D’oeuvres, Delicious Drinks, and Inspired Ideas for Entertaining With Style by Lauren Purcell and Anne Purcell Grissinger
- Williams-Sonoma Entertaining: Cocktail Parties by Georgeanne Brennan
- Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods With Attitude by Sara Corpening Whiteford, Lor Lyn Narlock, Mary Corpening Barber, and Carin Krasner
- Trader Vic’s Tiki Party! Cocktails and Food to Share With Friends by Stephen Siegelman
- Food & Wine Cocktails 2008 by Kate Krader and Jim Meehan
Mix Up Refreshing Tropical Cocktails & Drinks
Time to bring out the shakers! An island-theme cocktail party presents the perfect opportunity to experiment with a variety of concoctions infused with tropical flavors. Some exotic examples: passion fruit punch infused with an orange liqueur, exotic coconut rum cocktails, pineapple martinis, and a guava juice drink spiked with vodka and a hint of ginger.
To make this even more fun for guests, make it interactive! Set up a drinks bar where they can custom-mix their own cocktails. Bring out glasses and decanters in varied shapes to spruce up your decor without having to buy additional elements. Consider sleek cocktail glasses, shapely wine glasses with a flared opening, and contemporary martini glasses. Just don’t forget to have lots of ice cubes and crushed ice on hand. And for ideas on adding more cheer to your glass decor, check out our article Say “Cheers!” With Party-Pretty Glasses & Goblets.
For more tropical drinks ideas—both alcoholic and non-alcoholic—we recommend these references:
- Hawaii Tropical Rum Drinks and Cuisine by Arnold Bitner
- Paradise on Ice: 50 Fabulous Tropical Cocktails by Mittie Hellmich
- The Mocktail Bar Guide: 200 Recipes for Safe and Sober Parties by Frank Thomas and Karen Lancaster Brown
- The Ultimate Party Drink Book: Over 750 Recipes for Cocktails, Smoothies, Blender Drinks, Non-alcoholic Drinks, and More by Bruce Weinstein
- Infused: 100+ Recipes for Infused Liqueurs & Cocktails by Susan Elia MacNeal and Leigh Beisch
- Frozen Drinks: An A to Z Guide to All Your Frozen Favorites by Cheryl Charming
- Punch by Colleen Mullaney and Jack Deutsch
Add Music to Set the Mood
What would a tropical cocktail party be without some festive island-inspired music? Consider the melodic tunes of the late Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s, the Caribbean vibe of steel drum music, or the contemporary sounds of reggae. You may also choose to combine different genres of music to come up with your own unique selection. It need not be island-inspired—simply an expression of your personal taste in music as a newly engaged couple.
Prepare Triple-Purpose Guest Favors
For a practical parting gift for guests, this seashell picture frame is hard to beat. Not only is it a delightful memento of this tropical-isle engagement party, you can set one out on each guest’s plate as a decorative place card holder. Then, by simply adding a “save-the-date” card, it helps to remind everyone of your upcoming wedding. How’s that for a triple-purpose gift item?
Now, you’re ready to celebrate your engagement with a fun tropical-inspired cocktail party!